Does Being Gay Make You A Minority? Part 4

For the final post in this series (here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) we’ll examine the final 3 characteristics of minority groups based on a sociological list of 5 traits that minority groups tend to share. And we’ll discuss some implications for considering LGBT folks a minority group when it comes to the question of “rights.”

3) A shared sense of collective identity and common burdens: The LGBT community has bonded in order to provide community support to one another, both in cases of discrimination and intolerance described above, and to do what all social groups do for one another (celebrate life, mourn death, share their daily existence, tell stories, make art, help one another, work, gossip, raise children, and so on).

4) Socially shared rules about who belongs and who does not determine minority status: This group might be more porous than other minority groups, since many GLBT groups accept straight allies, asexual allies, and so on within their ranks. But there are still norms for membership, inclusion, and so on. Straight people don’t get to walk up and demand inclusion, just like men don’t get to demand inclusion in a women’s-only safe space. In some cases it’s appropriate to grant inclusion to outsiders, and in others it’s not, but it’s never up to the outsiders to determine that.

5) Tendency to marry within the group: Well. Duh. (not that there aren’t exceptions, like closeted gay people marrying straight people, or people getting married for reasons that don’t have anything to do with sexual desire/identity)

To sum up, if the country you’re living in is trying to make it illegal for you to be who you are, you are a member of a minority group (take the Jews, the Roma, and the differently-abled in Nazi Germany). If you have a shorter life expectancy because of who you are, you are a member of a minority group. If the mainstream culture makes it difficult for you to keep your job, or stay out of prison, you are a member of a minority group.

GLBT people are thus members of a minority group deserving of rights and protections – not “special” rights, mind you, but human rights. Like the right to get married, to live without violence and discrimination, and to not have to conceal their identities in order to get basic access to the ingredients that allow them to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.